That is all but that is enough. Why will it not do something about it? That is the part that is so bizarre. We are spending $10 billion in health costs as a direct result of smoking and bringing in $2 billion in revenue.
Some people have power over the government that goes beyond our wildest dreams. I would identify those people as being the cigarette manufacturers of Canada. They are giants.
I want to give the House an example of who some of those giants are. There is the Imperial Tobacco company, which I am sure most of us have heard about. It is a Montreal based company. It is the dominant player in Canada, with a 67% share of the market. It is owned by a British company called B.A.T Industries, which again is a big multinational conglomerate.
I think hon. members will be surprised when they hear what Imperial Tobacco owns.
Imperial Tobacco Limited is Canada's largest tobacco company. Its operations include leaf tobacco buying and processing, and the manufacture and distribution of a wide range of tobacco products. Its major brands include Players, DuMaurier and Matinée. The company is also the largest seller of cigars in Canada, with brands such as House of Lords, White Owl and Old Port. I guess we have heard those names.
It is really interesting to find out that this same conglomerate owns a drugstore chain called Shoppers Drug Mart. That is pretty powerful, but it does not end there. It also owns some trust companies. Some of its holdings include the Canada Trust Company, Canada Trust Realty Inc. and Coldwell Banker Affiliates of Canada Inc. It is pretty big.
I think we would have to believe that these people have some influence on the government when it comes to legislation and what they want to see the government do. Basically they do not want to see the government do anything. If the government really did want to do something concrete about smoking it would adopt Senator Kenny's bill, Bill S-13.
This is interesting, because last week Senator Kenny's bill was introduced in the House of Commons and immediately the government House leader jumped to his feet and used every measure he could to keep this bill out of the House. In other words, government members were using procedural arguments to keep Senator Kenny's bill out of the House of Commons because they are afraid of it. They are afraid of it because this bill would do something about smoking in Canada, particularly among young people. In Canada there are a quarter of a million new smokers coming on line each and every year. Something has to be done about that.
Senator Kenny's bill would do something about that. But the government, if it has anything to say about it, is not going to allow this bill to survive the test on the floor of the House of Commons. The government brought in all of its legal minds to launch challenges against this bill, even though it was introduced by the member for St. Paul's, one of its own members. Government members are going to use every means they can to keep it off the floor of the House of Commons.
This is a strategy on the part of the government. The battle is not coming from the health minister, because the health minister is on record as saying that Bill S-13 has merit and that it is a good bill. Unfortunately, he is out-voted in cabinet. There is one person in cabinet who has more clout than the health minister, which I think is recognized by just about everyone in the House, and that would be the finance minister. The finance minister rules the day in the government and he does not want this bill to come in.
What this bill would do is put a 50 cent levy on every carton of cigarettes manufactured in Canada. This levy would be applied at the manufacturer's level. This is not a tax, but a levy.
There are all kinds of precedents which indicate that this levy is no different than any other levy imposed from time to time on certain industries. We would use the argument of intellectual rights and the 5 cent levy imposed on blank cassettes which was passed in this House a number of years ago. That is just one argument that we would use to say that a levy is indeed appropriate and that there is a difference between a levy and a tax.
The fight is coming from the finance minister. Taxation is sacred to the finance department. In other words, it wants full control of every dollar that it is capable of extracting from our back pockets. It does not want to give up any revenue or any tax points. It does not want to give up its future ability to tax.
This 50 cents a carton is being opposed by the finance minister. I want to compare this to the EI account. We have heard the argument in the House that the finance minister is sitting on a $20 billion EI surplus which goes into the consolidated revenue fund. That is why the finance minister likes it and does not want to give up control of it. It allows him to manipulate the books, balance the budget, declare a deficit free accounting procedure, etcetera. The government loves it. I guess we cannot blame the finance minister for loving it because it allows him to do a little bit of manipulation.
The government does not want to see the same thing happening with this levy at the manufacturing level. This 50 cents per carton would be used to educate young Canadians, but it would not go into the consolidated revenue fund. Therefore, the finance minister would lose control. One might ask “What would be wrong with that?” The government gives and the government can take away.
Does anyone in this House remember David Dodge? Is it not correct that David Dodge was the deputy minister in the finance department in the days of Don Mazankowski and Michael Wilson? He was certainly a senior official in finance during those years.
David Dodge is now the health minister's deputy minister. Talk about the system perpetuating itself. We have someone who in the past gave Michael Wilson and Don Mazankowski, former finance ministers, advice, who is now giving advice to the health minister.
In my conversation with Mr. Dodge he said “I would be worried about this because it means that parliament is giving up its ability to tax”. I said “Listen, I hate to disagree with you, sir, but if parliament places that 50 cent levy on the manufacturers it is also saying that we can take it away if it does not work”, which we could do. There is no argument about that. In fact, Mr. Dodge really did not comment on my suggestion that if we impose it we could take it away if it did not work.
It goes back to that fundamental argument that the finance department does not want to give up control, as it does not want to give up control of the EI fund. It is a surplus that it loves to play around with.
The health minister promised to put $100 million into education over the next five years.